Agency accused of trying to kill state's coal mining industry
BY JIM MYERS World Washington Bureau
Friday, July 15, 2011
7/15/11 at 7:36 AM
WASHINGTON - Oklahoma's congressional delegation accused a federal agency on Thursday of trying to kill the state's coal mining industry.
In a letter to Joseph Pizarchik, director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, the lawmakers explain their growing sense of concern.
"OSM has taken two actions recently that seem to unfairly single out Oklahoma," their letter states.
"These two actions threaten an entire industry, its employees, and the state regulatory authority."
It quotes from what was described as a recently leaked draft environmental impact statement on a proposed stream-protection rule that the lawmakers clearly believe would mean an end to the state's coal mining industry.
That quote reads: "The reasonable, foreseeable development scenario for coal production in the United States the (preferred option) is for no new mining activity in (Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma) ...."
The delegation wrote that "our hope is that you will realize that pursuing an option in your proposed stream protection rule that outright eliminates an entire industry is unacceptable."
"Our state cannot afford to lose any more jobs: pursuing policies that will eliminate at least 260 high wage jobs in Oklahoma is unacceptable."
The letter also points out that the agency is attempting to change the rules and override Oklahoma's own enforcement program, which, the lawmakers say, is barred by both law and a bevy of federal court decisions.
"The Obama administration is working overtime to eliminate fossil fuels, and, if successful, the impact would be devastating in Oklahoma," said Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe, the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
"Not only are they working aggressively to kill natural gas development; now they are attacking coal mining."
Inhofe said the agency's proposed rule on stream protection clearly states that its goal is to stop new mining activity.
Republican Rep. John Sullivan described the agency's actions as a direct assault on the mining industry in Oklahoma.
"What we are seeing here is just another example of the Obama administration overstepping its bounds and infringing on Oklahoma's authority to develop, issue and enforce regulations for surface coal mining in our state," Sullivan said.
Democratic Rep. Dan Boren said the coal industry is vital to the economy of eastern Oklahoma, adding that the agency's new oversight initiative was unprompted and interferes with the state's ability to regulate its operations effectively.
Also signing the delegation's letter were Republican Sen. Tom Coburn and Republican Reps. Frank Lucas, Tom Cole and James Lankford.
A spokesman for the agency did not provide a comment Thursday and cited the late-afternoon timing of the delegation's statement.
Original Print Headline: Agency accused of trying to kill state's coal mining industry
Jim Myers 202-484-1424